Friday, July 3, 2020

Legacy


Listen, Journal- You're really asking some heavy questions lately!
 
 
I've never been one much for journaling, especially not the guided-journal variety.  Weird, I know.  But recently I got my hands on a Mindset journal from a Facebook Ad, and I look forward to working on my journal pages every day.

The other day, the Big Question of the Day was "How do you want to be remembered?  Why do you want this to be your legacy?"

The three things I chose were: 
My Sense of Humor
My Wisdom
My Heart

I want my Sense of humor to be part of my legacy because I think it's a great gift to be able to find the humor and laugh, and I think it is an even greater gift to lead the others to the laughter, especially in times of darkness and tense moments.  

I know the Wisdom is a weird bounce for me, given my propensity for negative self-talk.  But the thing of it is, I've learned a lot of lessons, and I've learned a lot of them the hard way.  I like to pass those lessons on, and if I can do that, at least those lessons could go on.  

And I want to be remembered for my Heart.  I love hard.  I laugh loud.  I worry about the people I love.  When I cry, it comes from my soul.  Sometimes, I love that I have a big heart on my sleeve, and others, I hate it.  But it's what I have.  Everything I do, whether it's perceived as good, bad, or indifferent, my heart was in the right place, and it was all in.  

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Getting Out of My Own Way

This is how it looks when I don't get in my own way!  
At the beginning of June, I filled out my workout rotation calendar for the month and decided that I was going to go to the gym every single day, all thirty days.  

I've made bold plans like this one before, many times.  Things always get in the way.  A late night will derail the next day's workout.  Or I'll sleep in too long and ditch the gym.  Sometimes I catch a cold and opt not to exercise, because, you know, "when you're sick, rest is best!"  And do I ever milk "rest is best" when I have even a slight head-cold.  

I had planned on working out all the days in April and May this year, too.  That was during the thick of Pandemic Purgatory, and I had nowhere to go during those two months.  I almost had April in the bag, and then got in a funk and fell to the bottom of the Bell Jar that last week, so I missed fourteen days- the whole last week of April and the entire first week of May.  Nothing holding me back but stinkin' thinkin', honestly. 

Killed two month's perfection birds with one trip to the bottom of the Bell Jar, I did.  In the moment in those two weeks, I told myself I was burnt out and just needed time to heal myself mentally.  I wasn't sick.  I just felt drained and sad and depressed.  It felt kind of good, getting up at 5AM and just getting around for the day.  It was still cold at the end of April, the beginning of May, and there's something about being wrapped up in a warm sweater, drinking coffee and watching the sky turn pink in those earliest hours of the day.

Except I am convinced that those two weeks of being sedentary undid all the progress I'd clawed out for myself since December.  And mentally, I felt foggy, sluggish, as though I was swimming around in murky water.  I did feel a zillion times better when I started back up in the gym in May, which made me all the more irked with myself for the two-week staycation.
Hitting this goal is about more than just the workouts!  

June needed to be different in that I needed desperately not to fall victim to excuses.  So I scheduled myself for a workout a day.  I've scheduled myself solid for every day in a month before, lots of times, like I said.  But this time, I was DETERMINED to stick to it.  I don't think I've ever actually followed through like that before, at least, not in recent memory.  And I did it.

It kind of surprised me, though.  Usually when I set a goal, I do it already knowing I'm going to let myself down. You've seen how negative my self-talk can be, even with people looking, here on the blog.  I expect to fall short and fail. There were mornings that I dilly-dallied once I got down to the gym.  But I always started the DVD and saw it through to the end. 

I don't think it made a lick of difference in my appearance, but it did make a huge impact on my confidence.  I set a goal.  I followed through, and I accomplished it.  I got out of my own way!

I finally really understand "You never know what you can do until you try."

I know I won't be able to get 100% in July.  But I am already planning to get 30 workouts in during this month.  I feel like the best way to follow up hitting a big goal is to set another one, after all!  Maybe eventually, I'll get good at this!

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Stronger Than This!

Maybe the days of demolishing one of these in under a week are behind me.
So about a month ago, we went to Sams Club for the first time Since, and while the husband was dashing around, selecting items his dentist office needed to reopen, my daughter and I had the cart for buying items for home.

For whatever reason, I pointed our cart to the Candy Aisle.  Most of the time, I can walk past that area of Sams with merely a wistful glance.  I know those aisles are full of things that are the nutritional equivalent of the guy who's a good-lookin' asshole: fun to be with for a moment, but just really bad, bad, bad for a gal's mental health, sense of self-worth, and overall general well-being.  And usually, I can resist because I KNOW there's nothing good about heeding the sugary siren call of the Candy Aisle.  It's just that on this particular day, I felt as though I'd somehow earned a stroll down through those shelves.

"Mommy," Zoe said as we headed down this path to perdition.  "I think this is a bad idea!"

"Nah," I said.  "We'll be okay.  I'm not gonna go nuts or anything."

Right the, I tipped that bright yellow 24-bag box of Peanut M&Ms into the cart and scanned the barcode.

"Mommy!" Zoe said, her eyes as big as full-size Peppermint Patties.  "mmmmmWHAT are you doing?!"

"Mind your business," I said, and casually rolled us out of the Candy Aisle.

Zoe had a bag or two of those M&Ms.  Within a week, I had devoured the other 22 bags.  

On one level, it's funny, because for someone who can put away candy like I do, I don't show it too much.  I'm pretty much as average as it gets- slightly on the heavy side.  Chubby. 

However, what makes it Really Not Funny is that I work out every day.  Remember my post from yesterday?  I worked out 100% of the days in June.  I usually work out at least 80% of the days in any given month.  The thing of it is, I do NOT look like I work out at all.  I'm as average-looking as average-looking gets.  I am pre-obese, according to my smartass scales.  I have been called chubby.  

This isn't okay with me. 

And while I was in a Skills Lab with my Health Coach lab-partner last Saturday, we were laughing about my bad habit concerning Nutella, and these very damn M&Ms, when all of a sudden, she stopped laughing and said, in a very nurse-tone of voice (she's a nurse in her life outside coaching), "April-girl, you are stronger than that Nutella, you know.  You are stronger than whatever it is that makes you want to hide in the closet and eat a quart of Nutella and a retail box of Peanut M&Ms.  You are stronger than this."

Not many things stop me cold, but this did.  It stopped me in the moment, and it has given me reason to pause at many points throughout the days since Saturday.

I am stronger than this.

The M&Ms are long-gone from my house (but not my hips!).  The Nutella is still here.  And I've had moments where I really wanted a big spoon of it.  And I have thought, and said out loud to myself, 

I am stronger than this!

I am stronger than this.  

You know what?  I believe it this time, and I am going to live as though I'm stronger than whatever makes me want to eat all the sweets in sight.  I'm tired of being the "short, chubby girl."  With the work I put in at the gym, I think I've earned the right to look like the "short girl who could bench-press a Mercedes."  So that's who I'm going to start treating myself like.  And see where that takes me.  I think that girl would demand a little more respect from herself and others than I generally settle for.  

I.  Am.  Stronger.  Than.  THIS!

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Like Haunting Something I Used To Know

I'm not at peace yet with "New Normal."
This morning, my daughter and I have appointments over at my husband's dentist office, and I'm dreading it.  Not because of all of that stuff about going to the dentist.  We're just going for cleanings and check-ups.  

It's because I haven't stepped foot in the building since before the Shutdown, at all.  I was always used to striding in as though I own the place, flittering around the waiting room if I wanted to, wandering in to my husband's office to update my phone and computer, and socialize with anybody I wanted to while there.  And my daughter was even more of a butterfly over at that place, seeing if she could befriend anyone after her appointments were over.

Now, we will not be striding in as though we own the place.  We have to sit in our Jeep and call to check in with the front desk.  Someone will come out and take our temperature and ask us a bunch of COVID related questions.  If we pass muster, we get escorted inside.  

And from there, we're taken right to our chairs in the hygiene department, and we have to stay in them until we're escorted from the building.  There will be no bee-bopping around for my social butterfly daughter.  We live in an endless game of "You've Got Cooties!" and we have to avoid, avoid, distance, and avoid, and since we have a particularly vested interest in this game, because it means our safety and the safety of our employees, and the livelihoods of us all, we have to do our part, whether we like it or not, whether we think it's the thing to do or a whole bunch of bullshit.

I hate this New Normal.  I didn't think of myself as a People Person in the days before Pandemic Purgatory, but I guess I really, really was.  I smiled at my fellow shoppers.  I'd strike up conversations with the people who were waiting in the same lines as me at restaurants.  All the little social interactions added up, and now that we're all behind masks and acting afraid of each other- even making eye-contact, I think, it all makes me want to come out of my house less.  Which I think is the very thing "they're" angling for us all to do, to be honest.  (Where's my tinfoil hat?!)

It isn't just the dentist's office that has me bothered.  I'm just particularly bothered by that one because I've been used to interacting with that place a certain way- as an extension of my home - for the last fifteen years.  I'm not the dentist, but that office is mine, too.  And when I've visited places I used to know before Quarantine that I have less of an attachment to, I've been extremely unsettled by the social distancing measures.  I think today is going to be a very hard day, going to something as quotidian and timeworn as a cleaning appointment at our very own dentist's office.

I don't know about you, Friends, but since we went Green (and it feels more like a lemongrass green.  Maybe a pea green, not a True Green), I feel like a ghost caught in a machine I used to know.  I'm half-unseen, unheard most of the time, but here I stand, bewildered at what the world is right now.  And I honestly don't want to get used to "New Normal" if this is "New Normal."  I'm hoping it's more of a "New Normal for Now," getting us through this moment in time and we can get a handle on this virus and how to deal with it, and this will all become just a story we tell here in a little bit.  

Monday, June 29, 2020

One Rainy Saturday Morning

Rainy Days and Mondays...don't really get me down at all, actually.
Saturday morning, when I got up at five, the sky was a dark and murky cobalt blue instead of the shimmery powder blue-teal-orange-pink of the sunrises I've been accustomed to being distracted by so early in the morning.  

It was raining.

It's been a while since I've woken up to a rainy morning.  And I can't remember when it was so dark when I woke up.  I could have almost mistaken Saturday morning for a wintry dark morning if it weren't for the sound of birds chirping in the rain.  Birds sound a little different in the rain.  There's kind of an echo effect to their song.  

It was kind of a refreshing change of pace, to be honest.  We've had so many sunny mornings for so long, I've forgotten when the last time we had a rainy early morning.

Back when we were in the thick of Quarantine, I remember musing on this very blog that I missed Mondays the Way They Used to Be.  In a Sea of Saturdays, a little Monday morning every few days was like a bracing lemon sorbet after a days-long gorge on hot fudge sundaes.  

Rainy Saturday morning was like the same thing, after days and days of stretching sun.  It felt like everything outside and in the air was getting cleaned off, watered, refreshed.

This spring changed everything.  Like the song says, rainy days and Mondays used to bring me down.  Now they're a welcome restart.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Too Too Much INTENSITY!!!!

Sometimes, I'm just a little too intense for my own good.
So I realized something a few days ago, and hold onto your pocket protectors, Pals, because I'm about to get real geeky on ya.  If my husband and I were defined by our similarities to species in the Star Trek universe, he would be a Vulcan (like Spock), and I would be a Klingon (L'Rell is the only one that quickly comes to mind in full Klingon Woman glory).

In case you aren't familiar with this particular dynamic, Vulcans like Spock achieve mastery over their emotions so that they really don't display emotions.  Klingons, the guys with the ridged foreheads and long black hair and angry demeanor are intense.  Like on a scale of one to ten, they're a fifteen.  Even when they're not angry, they look and SOUND angry.  

I've always wished I could be more Vulcan and less Klingon.  

Well, because I understand where the Klingons are coming from.  People think they're angry even when they're not, and they react in kind.  So, a Klingon could say, in their big, booming, enhanced indoor voices, "IT'S A BEAUTIFUL DAY OUTSIDE!" and the human nearby would not hear the words, but rather the manner in which they were conveyed and perhaps would tell the Klingon to calm the frak down.  (Look at that, I threw in Battlestar Galactica, too!)

And guess what effect telling someone to calm the frak down has!  IT DOESN'T MAKE THEM CALM THE FRAK DOWN AT ALL, DOES IT?!  No!  It does not!  In fact, it probably lights a fire in them.  And after a few minutes of this type of exchange, even though the Klingon wasn't angry before, now it is Game.  On.  The Birds of Prey would be scrambled and the scimitars would be drawn.  And then it's an arms race between the Federation and the Klingons, because the Klingons are so angry and they love war.  And maybe they do.  

But as someone who skews more toward the Klingon temperament than human or definitely Vulcan, I wonder if the Klingons didn't start out not being such a war and killing enthusiasts.  Maybe they were just intense, and after thousands of star-years of their intensity being read as HOSTILE!!! they just got sick of it and said "okay, FINE, we're HOSTILE!!!" and it was off to the arms races.

I think that's how I got to where I am today.  Growing up, I could go from being excited or agitated about something else to having a full-on tantrum in moments.  It would start by me having a bad day at school, or being upset because I got a bad grade (for those keeping track at home, this was anything below a 92) or falling out with a friend, and coming home and telling about it.  I'm not really big on using a well-modulated voice when emotional as an adult, let alone when I was a kid.  So the message of what I was saying would get lost in the manner in which it was delivered (pertineer yelling), and I'd get called out for being sassy or angry or basically intense, and a tantrum would ensue, and I'd get the fly-swatter (I grew up in the 80s- we all had our asses whooped by fly swatters, belts, and willow switches), get sent to my room, and would enjoy an earlier bedtime for the next week or two.  

As an aside, I got sent to bed early so much as a kid that by the time I was in high school, I'd just take myself to bed by 9PM on school nights and most weekends.  Whatever.

Since I was little more than a kid when I met my husband, and he was only two and a half years ahead of me on the way out of being a kid, he definitely saw this dynamic I had going on at home.  I'd be intense, the intense tone of my voice would shout out the message of what I was trying to communicate to the point that an argument over my demeanor would ensue, the message would be lost, and I'd be punished and sent off to lick my wounds in the quiet of my own room without anything about my original message being addressed.  

If you think that dynamic didn't carry over to our relationship and our home, even after we both were adults, you'd be wrong.  Except I don't get the flyswatter or that kind of thing when my Klingon-esque ass is "intense" around my Vulcan, Spock-like husband.  Hell no.  If he ever would have tried to pull that shit on me, I would have ended up kicking him through an othertruckin' wall.  I'm little but Rage makes me stronger, as the cool kids say.

No.  What happens instead is that he hears the intensity in my voice rather than the message of my words, and he shuts the efffffff down.  Which naturally incites and inflames me.  Our therapist says this is stonewalling, and that he's really, really good at it.  I think he comes from a long line of champion stonewallers.  

So roll my original emotion from whatever got me in an intense state to begin with into the anger and inflammation kicked up by the stonewalling, and I look like Donald Duck when he gets good and mad, while the husband sits there, cool and composed in his chair, dismissively uttering "Go ahead.  Keep it up," and just stonewalling the fluck out of the situation until I reach critical mass exasperation and storm out, slamming every door I walk past.  

And now I'm mad, and he's mad- I guess, because I was yelling at him.  And still, I never did get to be heard around whatever it was that stirred up the intense emotions in me to begin with.

Figure in 20 years of this same pattern, and I've gotten, rightly or wrongly, so that I really don't expect anybody to hear me when something sets off a strong emotion.  Because after all, I'm too sensitive.  I let things get to me too easy.  The message of my words gets drowned out by the tone of my voice, so I just ruminate on the issues myself.  And pardon the Anglo-Saxon derivative here, but this is a fucking lonely way to live.  It makes a broad feel utterly unheard and totally unsupported.  

Also, without a sounding board, the same issues swirl around in my head for YEARS, which frustrates the husband.  "We've already talked about this hundreds of times!" he'll exasperatedly say, throwing up his hands and ending the conversation.  "Unless you have anything new to tell me, I've heard it all!  Enough!"

Yeah, well... he heard, but he never listened.  He never offered insight.  He'd get hung up on my manner instead of listening to my message.  I was the aggressor and the problem, and all he was trying to do is live a peaceful life.  

I've been working with a therapist for months now, and the thing I have consistently begged for is a way to be less intense, less quick to anger, less quick to let my voice raise. My fondest dream in the world is to be calm, cool, collected, not at all intense, able to just shut down any emotion.  Aloof like a Vulcan.  I feel like if I were more peaceful and serene, the way I interact with my husband and my family would be more peaceful and serene, instead of me feeling like I was mailed to the wrong address and have kept winding up at wrong addresses my whole life. 

Since anger is really a secondary emotion, I can't help but wonder if all along the Klingons have been misunderstood and lonely, and sad because they're misunderstood and lonely.  And maybe they kind of hate themselves because none of the other people in the universe really get them.  They all just want to make the Klingons the common enemy to work together fighting.  And the lonely and misunderstood and sorrow combine with their general propensity toward INTENSITY!!!! and it just comes off as angry.

If that's the Klingon experience, then I guess I get it, 100%.  And I'm wondering how I can master myself into being composed like a Vulcan, or maybe if I'd be better served saying screw it all and developing a taste for blood wine for when the Klingon Mothership swings by to take me home with them.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Critter Brain and Sweet, Sweet Self-Sabotage

This is what it looks like when Critter Brain is runnin' the show!
Friends, I do this thing where I do really well working out and eating, and I see a little victory on the scale or in the way my clothes fit, and guess what I do- 

If you guessed I reward myself by holing up in a closet with a giant tub of Nutella and a giant spoon, you, sirs and madams, would be correct!

Or if it isn't Nutella, it's like 4 bags of Peanut M&Ms.  Halloween candy.  Chocolate chips I bought to make something out of.  Marshmallow Fluff I bought in a moment of weakness.  Freakin' brown sugar straight from the bag.

Is this behavior really in line with the goals I work so hard to achieve?  No.  Is this normal?  Yes.

Yes, it is.  This is a thing humans do.

It's definitely self-sabotage, and while we think we sabotage ourselves because we lack willpower, that is not what's happening here at all.  Without getting too technical on you, we have three parts to our brain that work together to make us who we are.  One part of the brain is the part that loves to learn and grow and think higher-order thoughts.  This is called the Cortex, in case you'd like to give this a Goog one of these days.  Then there's the Limbic System, that supports emotion and behavior, among other things.  

But it's the third part of the brain that's driving here.  The brain-stem, the most primitive part of our brains.  This part of the brain is affectionately known as "Critter Brain."  Isn't that adorbs?

Well, ol' Critter Brain is all about keeping us safe.  And safe means status quo, even if status quo doesn't make us happy or let us grow.  And Critter Brain pops up after you've made some changes to make yourself better, and it looks like they're really going to pay off.  When you're sailing along toward success, coo-coo-katchoo, who shows up but good ol' Critter Brain, ready to do whatever it takes to keep you right where you are, or right back to where you started.

And it does this by making you do things that sabotage your efforts to be better.  For me, it's overindulging on all the sugar.  All of it.  Apparently my Critter Brain is afraid we'll die if I can wear jeans that are a single-digit size again.  

Critter Brain doesn't just like to keep us safe from weight-loss success.  Critter Brain also doesn't cotton much to us bettering ourselves professionally or in other personal development-type ways.  Procrastinate much?  No follow-through on ideas or opportunities?  That's Critter Brain.  

So to calm that guy down, you have to acknowledge it.  Remember Critter Brain's trying to keep you safe, even if "Safe" sucks.  So you say "Thank you, CB for keeping us safe this far.  Let me take this one and show you it's all gonna be okay."  It takes practice.  You've got to go gradually to get Critter Brain to stand down.  But when you approach your Critter Brain with compassion, empathy, and kindness, it relaxes, and you can sidestep the roadblocks to success that it keeps throwing down to keep you safe.  It helps keep Critter Brain on its leash.

And don't beat yourself up if you tussle with Critter Brain and Critter Brain wins every so often.  You wouldn't be the first person in the world to ever hole up in a closet with a big tub of sugary fatness and a giant spatula....